February 2020 Newsletter

February 2020 Newsletter

Hello readers,

As elsewhere, in Vietnam in recent weeks the spectre of the COVID-19 coronavirus has been looming. Masks and sanitizers are out of stock. The government has closed schools and banned all foreign visitors who have been to China in the 14 days prior. Office buildings, residences, and retailers are posting and broadcasting announcements about prevention best practices. A number of companies have allowed their employees to work from home.

In our opinion, all in all, it’s been an impressively aggressive response, likely contributing to a fairly manageable number of cases (15 as of February 11) despite Vietnam’s proximity to and interconnectedness with China.

Still, the economic impact on Vietnam is likely to be meaningful through at least Q1 as China battles the epidemic, with impacts particularly on tourism, manufacturing, and trade. A number of international VCs have postponed visits to Vietnam, and major tech events have been rescheduled as well.

As for 500VN, we’re operating as usual. (After all, Warren Buffet did say, “When others are fearful, be greedy”!) The Saola Accelerator kicks off in 2 weeks with a number of international and local experts coming in. We’re looking forward to announcing a number of deals next month. And we have portfolio companies raising from Seed to Series C.

In the meantime, take a look at the action-packed newsletter below!

Until next month,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam

500 Startups Vietnam in the News

Binh Tran shared with Vietnam Investment Review (“Bao Dau Tu”) in a special Lunar New Year issue as he reflected on 500’s operations in Vietnam. “Back then in 2014-2015, the ecosystem wasn’t quite ready for an early stage fund but we wanted to capitalize on being a bit early to build a brand that founders trusted. Today, we’re the most active VC in Vietnam and I hope it means that founders trust us and believe in the value we bring”, said Binh. Bao Dau Tu (in Vietnamese). 1/27

Eddie Thai shared his journey with Business Punk Germany in a January issue covering Saigon’s booming startup ecosystem. From representing a new generation in the Vietnamese startup cosmos – the Viet Kieu, to backing talented Vietnamese founders like Trung Nguyen – founder of Saola batch company Axie Infinity, Eddie reaffirmed his bullish view on Vietnam. Business Punk (in German). 1/15

Debbie Wei Mullin, founder of Copper Cow Coffee, was featured in the MIT Alumni Association’s publication Slice. From a solo venture, Debbie has grown Copper Cow Coffee into its current incarnation, with products sold in 5,000 stores across the US and $3 million in funding. Slice of MIT. 2/5 

Vu Van, co-founder of ELSA Speak, shared about recent developments. The AI-powered English speech assistant is expanding across borders, hiring representatives in some of the biggest markets in Asia, like India, Indonesia, and Japan. The app was recently launched in Indonesia, where Vu is optimistic about ELSA taking off. KrAsia. 1/22 

500-backed TrustingSocial aims to revolutionize credit scoring in emerging markets. Founded in 2013, TrustingSocial is on a mission to fill that gap by providing credit scoring and improving access to financial services for consumers in emerging Asian markets, such as India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines. KrAsia. 1/14

Former Microsoft Vietnam executive Jeremy Showalter is now the CEO of 500-backed Pique. “I am excited about the growth impact applied AI can have for vertical ecommerce businesses and retail, and after 13 years at Microsoft, including five years in Vietnam, I wanted to focus again on the incredibly dynamic SE Asia region,” said Jeremy. GeekWire. 1/10

Leflair, which sells high-end products, has ceased its Vietnam business operations as part of a business model shift. Co-founder and CEO Loic Gautier commented on the move, stating the startup will retain its cross-border ecommerce business, fulfillment centre in Singapore and the newly-launched Philippine operations. “The change in business model is expected to help Leflair’s operation to become leaner, with the ability to change faster,” said Loic. DealStreetAsia. 2/5

Vietnam in the News

EU lawmakers ratified a Vietnam trade deal. Under the accord, Vietnam will scrap 99% of its import duties over 10 years and the EU will do the same over seven years, effective around July. The accord also curbs non-tariff barriers and opens up public procurement. This is expected to increase two-way commerce, which was almost 50 billion euros (~US$55B) in 2018.  Bloomberg.  2/12

Vietnam’s two big cities lead the region in dynamic growth. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi rank third and seventh among the most dynamic cities in the world, according to the City Momentum Index recently issued by property consultant Jones Lang LaSalle. VietnamPlus. 2/5 

Vietnam confirms 15th coronavirus (nCoV) infection case… Vietnam officially declared the nCoV outbreak an epidemic on February 1. Most patients who tested positive are in Vinh Phuc province in northern Vietnam. Vietnamnews. 2/11

…The coronavirus outbreak hits Vietnam’s economy: Vietnam suspends all flights to and from mainland China as a strengthening measure against the outbreak (The New York Times, 2/5). While stock investors’ concerns have pushed down the benchmark VN Index (Bloomberg, 2/5), a lack of Chinese tourists travelling during the peak holiday season is expected to affect Vietnam as well as Thailand and the Philippines, triggering knock-on currency depreciation (Financial Times, 1/29).

VinGroup bumps airline to focus on auto projects. Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup JSC is abandoning plans to launch Vinpearl Air so it can focus on other businesses including electric vehicle manufacturing. Company Chairman Pham Nhat Vuong said in December that he’s plowing as much as $2 billion of his own fortune to export VinFast EVs to the US and other markets by 2021. Financial Times. 1/14

January Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) surged 179 percent. Vietnam raked in $5.3 billion in FDI in the first 20 days of 2020, a year-on-year surge of 179.5 percent, according to the Ministry of Planning and Investment. Vietnam News. 1/30

Vietnam Tech in the News

Vietnam’s biggest mobile company Viettel will roll out 5G services, bypassing Huawei and using technology it has developed itself. State-owned Viettel, which is operated by the country’s Ministry of Defence, will begin deploying the next generation mobile network technology from June and complete nationwide deployment a year later. Financial Times. 1/20

Apple partner Pegatron set up production in Vietnam. Taiwan’s Pegatron Corp. plans to set up production facilities in Vietnam, according to people familiar with the matter, becoming the latest Apple Inc. assembly partner to establish a presence in the Southeast Asian nation as they diversify beyond China. Bloomberg. 1/21 

Forbes Vietnam issued the annual 30 Under 30 list, honoring young talented founders of technology startups including Logivan, MindX Education, and Amanotes. Forbes Vietnam. 2/3

Vietnam legalizes car-hailing services. After years of heated debate, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has signed off on a decree on transportation businesses to legalize car-hailing services. KrAsia. 1/17

Ride-hailing briefing: Grab appoints Nguyen Thai Hai Van as MD in Vietnam (e27, 1/13). South Korea’s Kakao Mobility launches ride-hailing service in Vietnam (Business Korea, 1/20).

Frontier Digital Ventures exits investment in Vietnam-based Propzy. FDV chose to divest its stake due to an upcoming funding round in Propzy that was likely to increase the startup’s losses at the EBITDA level and dilute FDV’s ownership to less than 10%, it added. e27. 2/7

Vietnamese ClassPass clone WeFit replaces CEO, begins restructuring after missing 2019 targets. Founder and CEO Khoi Nguyen was replaced by deputy Dang Nguyen. The company, founded in 2016 and backed by CyberAgent, ESP Capital, and VIISA, had reached 1.2M bookings by 2019. TheLeader. 2/8

Go2Joy raises a $2.5M Series A led by STIC Ventures. Founded in 2017 by Korean Simon Byun, the app helps users book local hotels by the hour. DealStreetAsia. 2/13 

Vietnamese unicorn VNG reduces its stake in Zion, the operator of e-wallet ZaloPay. ZaloPay is one of the most popular e-wallets in the market in terms of the number of customers and transaction volume. DealStreetAsia. 2/5


Startup Contest by Schoolab 2020, HCMC, 2/22. Startup Contest by Schoolab is a one-day hackathon organized by Schoolab Vietnam, in partnership with Saigon Innovation Hub, La French Tech Viet and DIAS-Xchange. Event.

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January 2020 Newsletter

January 2020 Newsletter

Happy new year!

December was another busy month for us, as we closed investments #53 (AI enterprise startup Glee Trees), #54 (undisclosed fintech startup), #55 (ecommerce enabler Intrepid), and #56 (undisclosed fintech startup).

It was a strong end to a busy 2019 for us and the broader Vietnam ecosystem. Some highlights for the year:

  • Continued investment interest in Vietnam! Nearly US$500M came from just three mega-rounds — Momo’s $100M led by Warburg Pincus, VNPay’s $300M led by GIC and Softbank Vision Fund, and Tiki’s $75M-plus led by Northstar.
  • We made 19 investments, the same number as in 2018 (when there were 92 deals total in Vietnam according to Topica Founder Institute). 500VN has now invested in a cumulative 56 companies to-date.
  • We hosted the first batch of Saola, our Silicon Valley-inspired, Saigon-based accelerator program, capped by an action-packed demo day.
  • Our portfolio companies continued to make progress, including another “centaur” (e.g. >$100M valuation company) crowned, marking 3 in our portfolio already.

We are hitting the ground running in 2020: Binh moved to Ho Chi Minh City, Eddie joined 500’s global fund managers’ summit in London, and we expanded our investment and accelerator teams. We now have 9 people working hard to discover and support what will hopefully be Vietnam’s most inspirational tech startups.

For 2020, we’re aiming to close another 20+ investments this year, help our founders reach new heights, and run two more batches of our successful Saola Accelerator.

tl;dr there’s a lot to come!

Until next month,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam

500 Startups Vietnam in the News

TechCrunch featured 500-backed Bunch as one of 10 notable young startups in 2019. Bunch allows users to play mobile games with friends over audio or video chat. “On its face, it might seem like a lightweight idea […]. But in a society where people are increasingly “apart together” — and study after study shows that social ties boost our longevity — the app has wide appeal from not just an entertainment but a wellness standpoint,” TechCrunch commented. TechCrunch. 12/20

Eddie Thai shared with The Edge Markets Malaysia on investing in Vietnam’s growth. “Despite the recent influx of venture capital interest, it is still fairly early in Vietnam’s startup scene with a lot of upside potential. And this is happening in the midst of a broader rising tide in the country. The minister of planning and investment has recognized this as a ‘once in a millennium opportunity’ for the economy,” said Eddie. The Edge Markets. 12/19

SEA startup funding ends decade on a high, but warning signs emerge. Shared with Tech in Asia, Binh Tran observed that the region’s startups are enjoying fundraising conditions that don’t seem sustainable. “The size of SEA’s internet economy is about 5% the size of the US’. However, we’re seeing companies raising on early-stage valuations similar to Silicon Valley’s,” he added. Tech in Asia. 12/31

Ecommerce B2B firm Intrepid Group secured series A funding led by Kairous Capital, Sun SEA Capital, and 500 Startups. Founded by Lazada co-founder and senior management team members, Intrepid Group offers brands a one-stop solution with localized access to key markets in Southeast Asia. Tech in Asia. 12/11

Singapore-based Glee Trees closed an investment round from 500 Startups to take its robotic process automation technology regional. With the new fund, Glee Trees will be improving its proprietary cognitive automation solutions, intensifying its primary reach in China, and expanding into Vietnam and Indonesia. e27. 12/18

Hung Phan, co-founder and CEO of Saola batch company Papaya, shared with Vietnam National Television about 500 Startups’ support. “500 Startups provides not only funding but also the global network of experts and fellow founders whom I’ve learnt tremendously from,” said Hung. VTV (in Vietnamese). 12/3

500-backed Cricket One won the national Blue Venture Award to represent Vietnam in the global final of The Venture 2020 in Canada. CafeBiz (in Vietnamese). 1/2


Vietnam in the News

Vietnam’s top 10 economic events in 2019. While 2019 was a challenging year for the world economy, Vietnam picked up growth momentum from the previous year to end 2019 with high notes. Hanoi Times. 12/31

Vietnam’s 2019 trade surplus hit a four-year record. Vietnam is estimated to have a trade surplus of $9.9 billion in 2019, widening from a $7.2 billion in 2018. The nation’s trade turnover surpassed the $500 billion mark for the first time in 2019. Reuters, Vietnam News. 12/27

Vietnam’s 2019 number of new businesses and registered capital recorded the highest level to date. 138,100 businesses were established in Vietnam in 2019, the highest ever, with the government’s initiatives to increase the quantity and quality of enterprises bearing fruit. VNExpress. 12/30

Vietnam’s top 10 landmarks on the stock market in 2019 included a new Law on Securities, an overhaul plan for stock market, a booming bond market, a rise of domestic exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and more. Vietnam Plus. 12/29

Two of Vietnam’s most important companies plan to merge some of their units to create a retail giant in the country. The retail and agriculture units of Vingroup JSC, Vietnam’s biggest-listed firm by market value, will merge with Masan Consumer Holdings — a subsidiary of the leading consumer retailer Masan Group Corp. Saigon Times. 12/3

Vietnam’s richest man bets $2 billion to sell cars to Americans. Pham Nhat Vuong, founder and chairman of Vingroup JSC, is now in charge of the new automaker VinFast. The company plans to crack the US electric car market in 2021 with Vuong investing as much as $2 billion of his own fortune to reach that goal. Bloomberg. 12/10

A Denham Capital venture, Nexif Energy, acquired 94% of equity in Song Giang Hydropower JSC, which owns two hydropower projects in Vietnam with a combined 49 megawatts of capacity. Vietnam Investment Review. 12/17

Trade War latest: Vietnam to punish firms for trade fraud in China-product probe (12/29); Christmas lights, tangled in Trade War, show Vietnam’s struggle (12/ 26). Bloomberg.

Vietnam Tech in the News

Southeast Asia’s new star: The rise of Vietnam’s tech scene in 2019. From funding to ride-hailing, fintech and headaches over regulating big tech companies were among the developments that defined Vietnam’s tech scene in 2019. Kr-Asia. 12/24

Vietnam’s startups bagged $750 million funding in the first 10 months of 2019. Fintech was the hottest sector for investments followed by logistics and ecommerce. DealStreetAsia. 12/5

China’s Ant Financial took stake in Vietnam’s eMonkey. The strategic investment will allow Ant Financial to gain entry to Vietnam’s booming market of nearly 100 million people. Reuters. 12/19

Despite the potential, competition in the ecommerce space is increasingly fierce. South Korean conglomerate Lotte is shutting down its Vietnam-focused online marketplace Lotte.vn. Lotte’s announcement came roughly a week after Vietnamese behemoth Vingroup announced its plan to shut down its ecommerce website Adayroi.com and merge it with its fintech arm VinID. Nikkei Asian Review. 12/26

Equinix, Inc., a Nasdaq-listed interconnection and data center company, signed a strategic partnership with Vietnam’s telco provider FPT to allow Vietnamese companies to go global. Channel Asia. 12/12

Vietnam’s B2B ecommerce startup Telio snapped up $25 million in series A round. The round was led by Tiger Global, with participation from Sequoia India, GGV Capital, and RTP Global. Tech in Asia. 12/19

Vietnam’s online bus ticket and car booking platform VeXeRe raised funding from Woowa Brothers, Ncore Ventures, and Access Ventures. e27. 12/26 

Vietnam’s fintech startup Interloan received $500,000 in prize from Phoenix Holdings after it won Fintech Challenge Vietnam 2019. e27. 12/9

NextTech Group’s venture capital fund Next100 invested $432,000 in digital transformation platform PushSale.vn. Saigon Times. 12/11

Vietnamese recruitment platform TopCV bagged six-digit investment from Korean VC Nextrans. DealStreetAsia. 12/12



Echelon Roadshow 2020, HCMC, 2/20. Echelon Roadshow is heading to HCMC featuring startups from TOP100 — the programme organised by e27 that empowers insights, connections, talent, and funding opportunities for early-stage tech startups in Asia. Event.

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November/December 2019 Newsletter

November/December 2019 Newsletter

Dear all,

This is a content-packed double-header. Scroll down for lots of interesting news items, from several funding announcements by our portfolio companies to larger rounds raised by older companies including Sendo and Scommerce.

December marks not just the end of another year but the end of another decade. So we are particularly reflective this month. In a talk kicking off VNExpress’s 4th annual Startup Viet Summit, Eddie shared a perspective on Vietnam’s startup ecosystem. He felt that compared to the “desert” that was 2013, it now feels like a lush forest by comparison, as seen by many measures including internet usage, ecommerce activity, government support, VC activity, and so on. How much has happened in the past 6 years makes him (and all of us, really) optimistic about the potential for 2025. Google & Temasek already projected that Vietnam’s digital economy could reach $40B by then. Eddie thinks it could be even more but, regardless, outlines several high-level evolutions needed to get there.

At the same event, we were pleased to announce that we’ve closed our 50th investment. We actually hit the milestone back in September (we’re now at 52), but thought Startup Viet Summit was a good time to finally share. Some observations:

  • There are still a lot of service providers, copycats, and micro-businesses in Vietnam — these account for the vast majority of companies that come across our radar — but we are seeing a rising number of good-quality founders
  • The founders we back have international origins (2/3 Vietnamese or overseas Vietnamese, and 1/3 from elsewhere in Asia, Europe, and the U.S.)
  • They also have international aspirations: 25% are focused on Vietnam or broader ASEAN, 75% target beyond
  • Our companies overall are doing better than we could have imagined, having reported raising more than $180M in downstream capital and achieving a combined valuation of nearly $1B

Towards contributing to another great 6 years of ecosystem development and investing in our next 50 (or 500) startups, we’ve been quite busy with events. We held founder chats in Hanoi (with two #500strong companies, NextSmarty and OpenCommerce) and Saigon (with another one, ELSA). We joined judging panels for WISE Women Accelerator Demo Day and SURF – Danang Startup and Innovation Festival. And more!

A final note, Saola Accelerator Batch 2 is filling up fast. If you’re a tech startup founder that’s ready to hit your next stage of growth, or if you know someone else who is, check out how we can help! http://sxr.bd8.myftpupload.com/saola-accelerator/. And here’s a recap video of our Saola Batch 1 Demo Day: https://youtu.be/TQm48Sz3Zn8.

Until next month, year, and decade,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam

500 Startups Vietnam in the News

500-backed ApplyBoard topped Technology Fast 50 winners by Deloitte, recognizing the fastest growing tech companies in Canada. The Kitchener-Waterloo based SaaS platform helps international students apply to study at higher education institutions. Deloitte pegged its three-year growth rate at 12,525 percent. Deloitte. 11/8

Eddie kicked off Startup Viet Summit 2019 with a “look back” and “look ahead” at Vietnam’s startup ecosystem. Compared to the “desert” that was 2013, it now feels like a lush forest by comparison, as seen by many measures including internet usage, ecommerce activity, government support, VC activity, and so on. VietnamPlus. 12/2

500-backed Trusting Social won first prize of Fintech Vietnam Challenge 2019, organized by the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) and the Mekong Business Initiative (MBI) funded by the Australian government and Asian Development Bank (ADB). Vietnam Finance (in Vietnamese). 11/8

500-backed Bunch raised $3.85 million from Supercell, Tencent, and Riot Games. With this new money, Bunch finds itself under the arm of a handful of some of the biggest mobile game publishers in the world. This new funding also brings Bunch’s total financing since launch to $8.5 million. TechCrunch. 11/20

Hau Ly, Saola Accelerator Program Manager, shared about the Silicon Valley-inspired Saigon-based program. “In batch 1, the 6 startups participated in 60 training sessions and workshops, and spent over 100 office hours with 8 growth experts on a variety of growth-focused content… We are recruiting for batch 2 of the program”, said Hau. CafeF (in Vietnamese). 11/22

AI-powered adtech platform ADBRO closed financing round from 500 Startups, eyeing APAC expansion. Founded in 2017 during YC School program, ADBRO serves the marketing tech sector by providing computer vision enhanced ads that are placed over contextually relevant images across publishers in Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia. e27. 11/27  

Hong Kong-based nanotechnology startup Volt14 Solutions bagged SGD 1.3 million (USD 995,000) in a seed funding round led by 500 Startups, HKSTP Ventures, and Entrepreneur First. Kr-Asia. 11/19

500 Startups co-led seed round in Vietnamese cricket protein producer Cricket One. The food technology startup provides environmentally friendly, high in protein food sources — cricket. It is managing over 25 million crickets per month, with the flagship Cricket One product being sold to bakeries and chip makers in Europe and the US. e27, TechinAsia, DealStreetAsia. 10/14

TradingFoe, the first Nordic B2B e-commerce platform that enables cross border trading between Asian and Nordic markets, announced the close of an investment round from 500 Startups. “We believe that this is only the beginning of our exciting journey… to make cross border trade easier and cheaper for importers and exporters around the world”, said the company. Finansavisen (in Norwegian). 10/4

Saola batch company Sky Mavis, the maker of highly rated blockchain game Axie Infinity, raised $1.5 million funding. The round led by game developer and publisher Animoca Brands with participation from 500 Startups and blockchain-focused firms Hashed, Pangea Blockchain Fund, and ConsenSys. TechinAsia, DealStreetAsia, Forbes Vietnam, Vietnamnet. 11/8

Trung Nguyen, Vietnamese lead founder of Sky Mavis/Axie Infinity, shared the startup journey and vision to bring blockchain technology to mass adoption. CafeBiz (in Vietnamese). 10/31

Debbie Wei Mullin, founder of 500-backed Copper Cow Coffee, shared four lessons she has learned from graduating 500 Startups and raising $3 million for her Vietnamese coffee brand: Create a differentiated product in a broad category, de-risk your business for investors, close seed round as quickly as possible, and hire early and hire often. MarketFit @ Rho. 11/19

Herve Vu Roussel, co-founder of Saola batch company Quod AI, shared how Quod AI applies deep learning and natural language processing to solve code collaboration problems. Kr-Asia. 11/14 


Vietnam in the News

Vietnamese exports surpass economic output. The knock-on effect of the US-China trade war would make the nation of 96 million by far the largest country in the handful of ‘super-exporters’ where outbound goods and services exceed GDP. Financial Times. 10/22

Vietnam welcomes ASEAN chair status. Vietnam will officially undertake its role on January 1, 2020, the third time it has held the responsibility after 1998 and 2010. The country has chosen ‘Cohesive and Responsive’ as the theme for ASEAN Year 2020. Vietnam Investment Review. 11/4

World Bank: Vietnam is set to be among the world’s top 10 remittance recipients in 2019, with an inflow projected to meet $16.7 billion. Remittance to Vietnam has been increasing steadily, growing from over $1.3 billion in 2000. Vietnamnet. 10/24

Hana Bank completed $875 million purchase of 15% stake in BIDV, Vietnam’s oldest and largest lender by total assets. The deal marks the first strategic investment project by a Korean bank in Vietnam, said Ji Sung Kyu, CEO of KEB Hana Bank. DealStreetAsia. 11/12

Vietnam’s Tan Hiep Phat seeks $3 billion to become the next Red Bull. Seven years after turning down a $2.5 billion offer from Coca-Cola Co., Vietnam’s biggest homegrown beverage company is seeking a strategic partner that can invest $3 billion to help make it the next Red Bull. Bloomberg. 10/15

Vietcombank became the first Vietnamese bank to open a representative office in the US. Located in Manhattan, New York, the office is the first of its kind opened by a Vietnamese commercial bank in the US. VietnamPlus. 11/5

Hong Kong ranked first among the 117 nations and territories investing in Vietnam. Total foreign direct investment (FDI) disbursement in the eleven months of 2019 witnessed an on-year increase of 7.2 percent, reaching $17.69 billion. Hong Kong ranked first with $6.69 billion, South Korea and Singapore shared the second position with $5.73 billion. Vietnam Insider. 11/30


Vietnam Tech in the News

Vietnam-based marketplace Sendo closed $61 million Series C funding. A spin-off of Vietnam’s largest IT services company FPT Corporation, Sendo focuses on the largely untapped tier-2 cities, home to 70 million Vietnamese consumers. This is one of the largest deals for Vietnam’s tech scene in 2019, with VNPAY and Scommerce bagging record amounts earlier this year. Kr-Asia. 11/20

Logistics startup Scommerce received investment from Singapore state investment firm Temasek. Headquartered in Ho Chi Minh City, Scommerce will use the funding to accelerate nationwide expansion of its two units, Giaohangnhanh (GHN) and AhaMove. e27. 10/29

Lozi secured 8-digit funding led by South Korea’s Smilegate Investment. The startup operates a C2C ecommerce portal and its own fleet for on-demand delivery service LoShip. TechinAsia. 11/1

Vietnam’s rental market platform Luxstay secured funding from private investors and M-TP Entertainment chaired by the highest-paid Vietnamese celebrity Son Tung M-TP. The deal followed 3 private investors or ‘sharks’ agreement on spending $2 million each on Luxstay via Shark Tank Vietnam programme in July 2019. Forbes Vietnam. 11/29

The number of 5G subscribers in Vietnam could exceed 6 million by 2025. According to a Cisco’s report, Vietnam and Singapore are expected to lead the way in Southeast Asia by launching 5G technology in the region in 2020-2021. Vietnamnet. 10/29

US-based ecommerce giant Amazon launched global selling programme in Vietnam. The move is meant to better support Vietnamese small- and medium-sized enterprises in their cross border e-commerce and business expansion activities. Kr-Asia. 10/17

Facebook is set to produce Oculus VR headsets in Vietnam, joining other tech giants moving their production to the country. Dantri International. 11/5 

Edtech startup MindX raised $500,000 in its first funding round led by ESP Capital. Founded in 2015, MindX, formerly TechKids, is a school chain for imparting new technology skills. VN Economic Times. 10/8

FEBE Ventures launches $25 million Vietnam early-stage fund. The fund, which will invest in early stage startup companies, is the latest venture capital firm to join the thriving tech investment arena in Vietnam. DealStreetAsia. 11/28



TECHFEST Vietnam 2019, Quang Ninh, 12/4. TECHFEST is the biggest annual event for Vietnam’s innovative startup community, organized by the Ministry of Science and Technology in coordination with other Government Ministries, Agencies and socio-political organizations. Event.

Connecting and Promoting Resources for Development of Innovative Startup Enterprises, HCMC, 12/10. The event, co-organized by the Ministry of Science and Technology and VCT10 NETVIET Channel, aims to create a platform for stakeholders to discuss the development of innovative startup ecosystem. Event.

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814 Mission St., 6th Floor
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© 2010-2019 500 Startups

October 2019 Newsletter

October 2019 Newsletter

Dear all,

Last month, 500 Startups held our global Annual General Meeting in San Francisco, where we were pleased to officially announce the addition of Tony Wang to the executive team as a managing partner. A veteran of Google (former managing counsel, international) and Twitter (VP, global partnerships and development), Tony was inspired to join 500 Startups in part due to our mission to extend opportunity all around the world. In a Medium post, he observed:

“For the first time in history, more VC dollars are being deployed outside the U.S. and there are more unicorns being created outside the U.S. This next stage of venture capital going global happens to pass through where 500 is strongest.”

Indeed, 500 has now invested in more than 2,300 companies in 74 countries around the world, and several of our earlier international investments have become unicorns. We’re excited to have Tony with us for the next stage of growth.

The work is not merely limited to investment though. In the past few weeks, 500 has announced a number of new initiatives, including a partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to launch an impact accelerator in Indonesia (read more: e27) and a partnership with Enterprise Singapore to help Singapore startups expand to the U.S. and U.S. startups to expand to Asia via Singapore (read more: Business Times).

We’ve got our own exciting news to share soon. Until then, please enjoy the latest on Vietnam and our tech scene below.

Until next month,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam

500 Startups Vietnam in the News

500 Startups and other VCs shared bullish view on Vietnam as the region’s next growth market. ‘If you want to start your company in a safe and dynamic country that loves foreigners and has a large concentration of affordable engineering talent, Vietnam is hard to beat,’ Binh Tran said. Kr-Asia, TechinAsia, CafeF. 9/11

Following the Saola Accelerator’s inaugural Demo Day, Eddie Thai shared with VTC10 on 500’s vision and strategy in Vietnam, and shed light on Saola Accelerator’s second batch. VTC10. 9/9

500-backed NextSmarty shared about its AI recommendation technology that helps boosting e-commerce sales by 50%. Kr-Asia. 9/25 

Binh Tran spoke at the first International Techfest Vietnam in the USA, organized by Vietnam’s Ministry of Science and Technology. Binh emphasized that ‘Government support plays a very important role in the development of Vietnam startup ecosystem. This is one of the many initiatives to help the ecosystem continue to grow. We at 500 Startups are here to support’. VietnamNow (Vietnamese). 9/13

Vietnam in the News

Vietnam’s economy expanded 7.3% in the third quarter, reaching its highest level in nine years… Despite uncertain global economic environment, Vietnam’s economic growth accelerated in the third quarter, underpinned by solid growth in exports and manufacturing. Vietnamnet. 10/4 

…During the same period, Vietnam’s trade surplus reached a record high at $7.1 billion. Vietnam’s trade turnover in Q3 stood at $139 billion, up 9% year-on-year and significantly higher than $116 billion recorded in Q1 and $127 billion in Q2. The US remained Vietnam’s largest export market. The Hanoi Times. 10/5 

State Bank of Vietnam cut interest rates in an effort to support businesses and bolster the economy as global risks rise. The benchmark refinance rate was lowered to 6% from 6.25%. The discount rate and overnight lending rate in the inter-bank market would be lowered by the same magnitude to 4% and 7% respectively. Bloomberg. 9/13

Insurance market heats up. The vibrant outlook is driven by announcements of various deals, namely: $400 million acquisition of Vietcombank Cardif Life Insurance by FWD, $2.5 billion divestment of Britain’s Aviva, a partnership between Manulife Vietnam with Asia Commercial Bank (ACB), and Prudential Vietnam Assurance with Shinhan Bank. Vietnam Investment Review. 9/28

Two Vietnamese CEOs named as top Asian ‘Power Businesswomen’ by Forbes. The chief executive officers of budget carrier Vietjet, Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, and dairy firm NutiFood, Tran Thi Le, was named among the 25 most powerful businesswomen in Asia, honouring their significant role in shaping Asia’s business landscape. Forbes. 9/23 

NYT: As Formula One expands, Vietnam becomes a new destination. The addition of a grand prix in Vietnam in April 2020 will be especially significant because it will be the first race added under the sport’s new owner, Liberty Media Corporation. The New York Times. 9/6

Vietnam’s IPO market dries up with no new listings in 2019. Factors such as a tumbling stock market coupled with better alternatives to capital supply have kept companies away from floating their public issues in 2019. Nikkei Asian Review. 10/4

Companies have been moving to raising capital with bonds over stocks as trade tensions triggered stock market volatility. Bloomberg. 9/4

Vietnam Tech in the News

 Vietnam emerges as most digital of all ASEAN economies as measured by gross merchandise value (GMV) as a % of GDP, according to Google and Temasek. Vietnamnet. 10/4

Vietnam jumped from fifth to third in the list of most active startup ecosystems in ASEAN. The move is underpinned by six-fold growth in amount of invested capital and numbers of technology deals done in the country in the 2017-2019 period, according to a report by Cento Ventures and ESP Capital. Vietnam Plus. 9/5

Vietnamese internet company VCCorp launches a social network, Lotus. Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung expects that Lotus will become an inspiration for other Vietnamese tech companies to create more made-in-Vietnam technology products. Tuoi Tre News. 9/17

InnoVen Capital closes two maiden financings in Vietnam, marking the first venture-debt transactions recorded in the country. The Southeast Asia- and India-focused venture debt firm has thereby provided loan to e-commerce firm Tiki and shared workplace UP Co-working. DealStreetAsia. 9/13

VinGroup’s VinTech Fund invests $3.7 million in 12 applied science projects. These projects will be applied for pilot to Vingroup’s multidisciplinary ecosystem before being commercialized. VNExpress. 9/23

Vietnamese proptech startup Rever raises $2.3 million from GEC-KIP Fund. The proptech company plans to open 30 additional large experience centres within the next 18 months to better serve its clients and start expanding beyond Ho Chi Minh City. e27. 9/5

VinaCapital Ventures leads investment in Vietnamese social commerce platform Ecomobi. The investment was joined by South Korea-based GSShop, Naver Group, and LINE Ventures. Vietnam Economic Times. 9/5


Demo Day – WISE Women Accelerator 2019, HCMC, 10/30. Launched in March 2019, WISE Accelerator 2019 aims to accelerate technology-related women-led startups in Vietnam. Saola Accelerator Manager Hau Ly will join the judging panel of the Demo Day. Event.

Architectures of Highly Scalable AI Systems, HCMC, 10/17. Herve Roussel, Founder of 500 Startups-backed Quod AI will share about building the scalable AI system. Herve is an ex Silicon Valley CTO with 10+ years of experience, an advisor and mentor for organizations such as IBM AI XPRIZE, PlatoHQ (YC’16), RMIT, AngelHack and more. Event.

WHISE – Week for HCMC Innovation, Startup and Entrepreneurship, HCMC, 10/18-19. The event is co-organized by the Department of Science and Technology and Youth Union HCMC and chaired by the People’s Committee HCM and Embassy of Finland. Event.

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September 2019 Newsletter

September 2019 Newsletter

Dear all,

Last week we unveiled the first batch of graduates of our Silicon Valley-inspired, Saigon-based accelerator, Saola. Founders took the stage to an audience of more than 200 investors, entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and other ecosystem partners.

Saola Batch 1 companies in A-Z order:

+ Axie Infinity – a digital pet game on the blockchain with a die-hard community, $2.5M in game item sales and marketplace transactions, and the backing of leading blockchain investors like Hashed and Consensus


+ Dibee – a digital payment solution for corporate auto fleets that counts marquee names like DHL, Avis, and DB Schenker among its clients and boasts a 100% client retention rate


+ NextSmarty – an AI recommendation engine to convert website visitors into customers with former CMO and COO of Microsoft Vietnam as incoming CEO and backers like Tina Ju, managing partner of Kleiner Perkins China


+ Papaya – an employee healthcare & wellness benefits platform for corporations in Vietnam and beyond, which has already partnered with a top insurance provider and an insurance broker


+ Quod AI – an AI platform that helps software engineers be more productive by explaining source code in plain English, developed by a 3X CTO and a mathematical physicist who previously developed AI models for NASA


+ Schola – a 1-to-1 online English learning platform for non-native children founded by Facebook and Garena alums and seeing a 70% course completion rate


In addition to these companies, our Demo Day hosted rising stars from 500’s portfolio across the region, including Beam (a micromobility company seeing 30% week-on-week growth and backed by Sequoia, Founders Fund, and Zhen Fund), Finaxar (providing SMEs working capital in as little as 24 hours), Jala (a shrimp IoT and data management solution serving customers in 4 of the world’s top 5 shrimp-producing countries), Portier (the “No Download” travel assistant that has seen +300% ARR in 4 months), and a fifth undisclosed company.


We’re proud of all of the founders, and grateful to folks who came out and supported them.

Batch 2 of our Saola Accelerator Program is open for applications. It’s still ~4 months from starting, but we’ve already filled 3 of the 10 spots. Are you a founder ready for growth? Or do you know one? Check out bit.ly/500apply now!


A short video about Saola Accelerator: 


Until next month,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam




500 Startups Vietnam in the News


Regional investors and entrepreneurs converge in Vietnam for a Southeast Asia showcase by 500 Startups. Eleven “rising star” startups pitched their ideas to a room of more than 200 investors and entrepreneurs as part of the 500 Startups Demo Day to highlight the promising startup ecosystem in Vietnam and broader Southeast Asia. Vietnam Economic Times, Vietnam News, CafeBiz, Vietnam Insider. 9/6

500 Startups sees healthy early-stage pipeline in Vietnam. “As long as there are smart entrepreneurial people, and many challenges to solve in Vietnam as well as other markets in the region, we should be able to keep investing at a healthy pace,” Eddie told DealStreetAsia. DealStreetAsia. 9/8

500 Startups sees the biggest potential for Vietnamese startups lie in developing technology solutions that solve emerging-market problems. Eddie expects disruption, but also evolution, in sectors that include financial services, education and training, transportation and logistics and small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) productivity. The Business Times. 8/7

Saola Accelerator growth expert Mike Villar wants to put the romance back into advertising. “Relationships escalate one step at a time. Selling without a story is like asking someone to marry you on a first date,” he told a dozen Saola founders. Jumpstartmag. 8/5



Vietnam in the news


Vietnam investors shrug off U.S. trade risk for growth. Robust economic growth and the government’s planned sale of stakes in state-controlled companies will offset dips in equity prices triggered by trade frictions. Bloomberg. 8/16

Women-led businesses on the rise in Vietnam. A recent Grant Thornton’s report titled ‘Women in Business 2019,’ revealed that women hold 36 percent of senior management positions in Vietnamese businesses, ranking second highest in the region after the Philippines’ 37.5 percent. The ASEAN Post. 8/28

Vietnam announced revised plans to privatize state-owned companies. 93 companies including Mobifone, Agribank, and VN Post are slated for partial or complete privatization by the end of 2020. Bloomberg. 8/16

PE investors scout for deals in Vietnam’s renewable energy sector. Renewable energy emerged as one of the most preferred sectors for investments in the country in 2019 as it took the third slot after fintech and education. Nikkei Asian Review. 8/26

Airlines boom as travellers opt to fly over overloaded infrastructure. Even as airports are getting degraded and cramped, more and more new players like Vietravel Airlines, Vinpearl Air, and KiteAir are entering the aviation market. Vietnam Investment Review. 8/30


Vietnam tech in the news


Vietnam’s e-commerce player Tiki acquires 500 Startups portfolio company Ticketbox. The acquisition is part of Tiki’s aim to become an ‘all-in-one’ e-commerce platform. DealstreetAsia. 8/20

Google to shift Pixel smartphone production from China to Vietnam. The push reflects the twin pressures of higher Chinese labor costs and the spiraling tariffs resulting from the trade war between Washington and Beijing. The U.S. internet giant intends to eventually move production of most of its American-bound hardware outside of China. Nikkei Asian Review. 8/28

Vietnam says Facebook steps up local content restrictions. “Facebook now meets 70 to 75% of the Vietnamese government’s requests, compared to around 30% earlier,” information minister Nguyen Manh Hung said at a parliament meeting in Hanoi. Reuters. 8/16

Singapore hotel booking platform RedDoorz raises $70 million to build Vietnam tech hub. The company will use the funds to build its second technology hub in Vietnam besides expanding to new markets, investing in technology and user experience, and boost hotel staff training. VnExpress. 8/27

Vietnamese POS startup KiotViet gets $6 million from Jungle Ventures and Traveloka. Established in 2014 as a cloud-based POS system, KiotViet now provides omnichannel business and management software solutions catered to microbusinesses and small and medium-sized enterprises. TechinAsia. 8/15

Vietnam prefers its mobile networks to be free of Huawei. Vietnam’s smaller carriers appear to be shying away from Huawei, as well. MobiFone Corp. is using Samsung Electronics Co. equipment while Vietnam Telecom Services Company, or Vinaphone, entered into a partnership with Nokia to deploy its 5G network, according to local media. Bloomberg. 8/26

Vietnam’s new social app Lotus aims to raise $52 million to take on Facebook. VCCorp has ultimately chosen Lotus as the brand name for this latest social app, which is expected to make a soft launch next month. DealstreetAsia. 8/25

Ride-hailing giant Grab to invest $500 million in Vietnam over the next 5 years. The company will expand its transport, food and payments networks in the country. CNBC. 8/27




Seedstars Ho Chi Minh City 2019, HCMC, 9/19

Seedstars World promotes, connects and invests in emerging market startups through its exclusive startup competition in over 50 countries. The winning startup at Seedstars Ho Chi Minh City 2019 will get a free trip to the Seedstars Regional Summit. Event.

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814 Mission St., 6th Floor
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© 2010-2019 500 Startups

August 2019 Newsletter

August 2019 Newsletter

Dear all,

Normally our introductory statement synthesizes recent developments in Vietnam or the region. But, as you can see from the photo above, the team has been having a lot of fun over the past several weeks, so we thought we’d share a bit about why below.

The first batch of the Saola Accelerator is in full swing, with July the first full month of the program. The program has brought in an all-star cast of experts to work with the startup founders, via ~100 training sessions, workshops, and mentoring sessions so far. The experts themselves collectively have been founders or other leaders of 22 startups (of which 11 have exited), invested in 100+ startups, worked for companies including Google, IDEO, Samsung, and Cisco, and studied at schools like Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford.

Batch founders seem to appreciate the support from these experts who have “done it” before. “Good framework and mindset.” “The topics were very relevant and deep.” “The engagement was fantastic.” “Amazing”. “Very practical. So we’re excited to announce that we’re looking for talented founders to join Batch 2 of our program. Want help building an impactful company at scale? Apply now here!

Of course, 500 Startups has been committed not only to backing our great founders but also to supporting the development of the Vietnam startup ecosystem at large. As part of that, in July we hosted a public event featuring 500 Startups Partner and Saola Program Director Saalim Chowdhury, who talked about how to build a great growth machine.  120 startup founders, executives, and growth enthusiasts attended and many others viewed the video during / afterwards. On the other side of the world, in San Francisco, 500 Startups HQ hosted an ASEAN Tech Summit, featuring Binh and a dozen other speakers who shared about the region’s opportunities and challenges.

In the midst of all of that, we closed investments into startups #45 (a retail enabler) and #46 (a medtech startup), which meant that we’ve kept up a pace of 2 new startups invested per all-but-one-month since February 2019. So perhaps it should be unsurprising that we observed an overarching thread across the development of Vietnam, its startup ecosystem, and our team: there’s still a lot of work to be done, but we’ve come so far already.

To gear up for the next phase, we are hiring a few final missing pieces to the team, especially one more Investment Analyst and one Communications Specialist. If you’d like to expand your perspectives and your network, plug into the global tech & innovation scene, get an insider’s look at Vietnam’s startup ecosystem, and work with ‘phở-nomenal’ people around the world, apply NOW!


Until next month,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam


Vietnam in the news


Venture capital piles into Vietnamese technology companies. Vietnamese companies in sectors ranging from trucking to fintech and facial recognition are attracting a record wave of venture capital money, drawn in by the digital transformation and growing wealth of one of Asia’s youngest and fastest growing economies. Financial Times. 7/24

Your next iPhone might be made in Vietnam. Thank the Trade War… Samsung already assembled half of its handsets in Vietnam, which got a big lift from U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods, and now Apple is homing in.  The New York Times. 7/30

…But Vietnam is now in trouble itself. Thank the Trade War. The country is benefiting so much from the impasse that it’s at risk of being hit with punitive American duties. Bloomberg. 8/6

Good short-term effects for Vietnam after Fed’s rate cut. The US Federal Reserve’s latest rate cut will benefit commodity and equity markets in the short term. The rate cut would increase the value of investment into equity and commodity assets as the US dollar was weakened, encouraging international investors to purchase more local assets. Vietnam Plus. 8/4

As Vietnam’s economy booms, more luxury buyers emerge. Wealthy Vietnamese are looking in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and as far away as Europe and the U.S. Mansion Global. 8/4


Vietnam tech in the news


Vietnamese minister calls for local tech firms to challenge Google and Facebook. Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung said that Vietnam needs to build its own digital ecosystem where made-in-Vietnam social media networks and search engines can compete with Facebook and Google. KR Asia. 7/16

Enterprise Singapore supports access to Vietnam tech ecosystem with GIA expansion. Enterprise Singapore, Singapore’s government-owned enterprise development agency, is expanding the Global Innovation Alliance (GIA) to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, to facilitate collaborations between the two startup ecosystems. E27. 7/22

SoftBank Vision Fund and Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC complete $300M investment into the parent company of digital payment player VNPAY. Deal Street Asia. 7/25

Vietnam tech company NextTech pledges US$10M fund for early-stage startups. E27. 7/31



Hanoi Innovation Summit, Hanoi, 8/29

Binh Tran, General Partner of 500 Startups Vietnam, will be talking at Hanoi Innovation Summit.   The summit brings together executives, VC, startups  and community leaders from all over the world to discuss innovation for inclusion and sustainability in emerging economies. Event

Vietnam Startups Day, HCMC, 8/23

Organized by the Ministry of Science and Technology and Business Startup Support Center, the two-day event includes startup exhibitions, keynotes, panel discussions, and hosts the final stage for Vietnam Startup Wheel competition. Event

San Francisco
814 Mission St., 6th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103, USA

© 2010-2019 500 Startups